Rappville Creative Recovery Project
A commission for Arts Northern Rivers
The Rappville Creative Recovery Project was initiated in 2020 by Arts Northern Rivers, in response to the 2019 bushfires. I was invited, along with Charlotte Hayward, to engage with the residents of Rappville, a village in northern New South Wales devastated by the bushfires. Since September 2020 the project has provided opportunities for the community to share their stories, engage in a range of activities and workshops, and get involved in the creative process. The project resulted in a series of temporary works being presented to the community in October 2021, and in late 2022 permanent works will be installed in the village.
Rappville is a strong community, who feel deeply about place, and the history of those who have lived there in the past. Trees too are highly important to the area, as timber is key to the local economy, historically and for future prosperity. These findings are at the centre of my creative response.
The most poignant of the works created focuses on a tablecloth that was made in Rappville during World War One, to raise funds for the war effort. Initiated by the Red Cross, local people paid a small donation to write their name on a tablecloth, which was later embroidered by ladies from the village and outlying areas. I became aware of the tablecloth by finding a photograph of it in the Richmond River Historical Society. This started a conversation which resulted in the tablecloth being returned to Rappville. I recreated the original event, by inviting signatures for a second tablecloth, which was printed on linen as a multiple and gifted to local families. The floral design on the tablecloth represented Jacaranda flowers, which are significant to the community, as an avenue of Jacaranda trees were planted in the village in 1938 to commemorate the area’s early settlers. The design was overlaid with the names, which were printed in red to replicate the red thread used in the original tablecloth.
I invited local bush poet Steve Cavenagh to create a poem that celebrated the heart, spirit, history, people, and landscape of Rappville. Welcome to Rappville resulted from a poetry workshop with local people, who generously shared their stories of living and working in the area. I designed a large banner and leaflet to showcase the poem, which included plant designs of local trees. I also created three large history banners, which included images from local families and historical societies in the area.
Further information about the Rappville Creative Recovery Project can be found at:
A PDF of Welcome to Rappville, the poem by Steve Cavenagh can be seen here.